Presence

On the Corner

On the corner of this street and that one
stands a man who served.
His better years poured out
spilling blood to protect the human creations
of liberty and freedom.
He fills the emptiness created by lost years
of taking life
by drowning his own from a brown paper bag.

On the corner of this street and that one
the smell of sweets
carry with them the dreams, the hopes of and entrepreneur
who waits,
waits for the promised coming of people and purchases.
One by one they trickle in to check out
and be checked out
By one helping to turn the page on history…
On commerce, culture and craft.

On the corner of this street and that one
paces a woman ready to serve.
Her current young years being poured out
to the pleasure desired by unknown men
With money.
Money that only deepens the sorrow of aloneness
she fills
with the exchange of her earnings for pills.
Pills that will lead her to pace again and wait for the next wolf
in sheep’s clothing of green.

IMG_20171204_091506.jpgOn the corner of this street and that one
standsa structure whose size
belies the number of souls, pacing, waiting and serving in it daily.
And yet, this place…this place is filled with hope
the very hope needed on all corners by all people.
It trickles out as people of The Way of hope step forth
to be the very presence of God.
They stumble at times – allowing their steps to be tripped by
brown paper bags
pacing women
new places and faces –
But the one who walks with them lifts them up to complete the call.
to follow
to the corner of this street and that one.
Corners Christ refuses to abandon.

#RethinkChurch
#UnwrapChristmas

Peace,

Scott Sears

TBT – Honey Bees and Root Beer Powder

I stood in the back yard of our little home on Bluestone Road feeling the dampness of the new mown grass tickle my barefoot toes. Normally, I would not venture into the yard barefoot. There were so many honey bees collecting pollen from the enormous amount of clover that grew there that it just wasn’t always bee on clovercomfortable to be barefoot. On more than one occasion I would hobble into the house with a stinger protruding from a toe, or heel and seek the medical attention of Dr. Mom.

Of course, after a while I thought I could handle it on my own and reached down and grabbed the stinger on my own and yanked it out. I soon learned how wrong I was. My foot would swell much worse than when Dr. Mom removed them and then I noticed that she never pulled, she scraped. And thus I learned the secret of removing a honey bee stinger without releasing all the venom into my system.

This day, I didn’t have to worry about honey bees. The clover got cut with the grass and part of me hated that. I had grown accustomed enough to the bees and their stings that I would often chase them and catch them in a jar. (And yes, I would sometimes wait until dark and put some lightning bugs in the same jar hoping for some sort of fight. Alas, they were insect pacifists!)

I walked into the house, leaving a small trail of grass clippings on the tile in our kitchen. I made my way to the counter where we kept all the Kool-Aid® drink mixes and searched around until I found that novelty of 1970’s, “Aunt Wick’s Root Beer Powder.” Aunt WicksThis powder made a passable non-carbonated version of a root beer tasting drink, but I thought its brown and yellow package contained magical botanical powers. I can’t remember why I first tried this, but one day I sprinkled a package or two on the fresh mowed grass and in the morning there was a whole new crop of clover just waiting for the bees. Several times I tried this trick and every time it worked. Of course, I never thought to run a control or two and not sprinkle it on the grass and see what happened. My guess is that the powder did nothing to the clover, however, the added sugar didn’t hurt in attracting bees.

I mow my own yard these days. I live in one of those neighborhood where many people have lawns and they care for them meticulously each and every week. I have a yard. It gets mowed every week but that is about it. This year, I was thrilled to see that clover had taken over a good portion of the back and side yards. I didn’t remember it sprouting up the previous two summers. (I can also rest assured that no one has been spreading Aunt Wick’s on my yard too. Jel Sert quit making it some time ago.) I was thrilled because I thought I would get a great chance to dodge some honey bees while I mowed or just watch them dance around on a summer afternoon.

The first time I mowed the clover, I saw one single honey bee. One bee.

How sad. I had heard that something was happening to our bee hives. I had seen the prices of honey go up. But I never knew the effect it might have on how I got to view the clover in my yard. Since that first clover cutting, I have seen several more bees, but never more than three at a time. They aren’t dancing around the clover like they did in the seventies. I’d go barefoot anytime in that clover.

I don’t know what has made the honey bees go away. I don’t know what made Aunt Wick’s Root Beer Powder go away.

But on this “Throw-Back-Thursday”, I wish they were both here.

My Home Among the Hills

wpid-PaperArtist_2014-03-24_11-00-46.jpegBased on Luke 4:24-30

Inspired by http://www.pray-as-you-go.org

Yeah, I am a child of the mountains –
a “West-By-God-Virginian.”

But why do I build my city on a hill?

Is it the place where I best see –
the danger coming
the glorious sunrise
the gathering storms
the grandest views of creation?

Or is it just the place
where even when I don’t feel safe…

I can force those who assail
my foundation
my beliefs
my worldview
to the edge of a precipice
where they can view their doom.

I build my city on a hill
but I often forget.

The cliff is not there for my enemies
or the prophets who unsettle me.
It is there for me…
to shout until the Word echoes
to step off…
to fail, to fall, and to flail.

And to find myself
in the very hand of God.

Go!

“Baptizing a baby is the most dangerous and reckless act a set of parents can do with a child. If this child is one that you want, you need to stay as far away from the baptismal font as possible.”

I have said these words a couple dozen times in the last twenty some years of being a pastor.  I said them with all seriousness because I truly believe them.  We think as parents that we can look out for our children, do what is best for our children, and perhaps even plan and work towards a good future for our children.

And then, in Baptism, we go and give them to God!

Sure, we promise to do all we can to bring them up in the faith.  (Yet another dangerous act!) Yes, we do this partially out of cultural significance – at least in the church culture.  But sometimes we don’t think completely about what we are doing.  That’s why I make the statement that I do.

Hammock from Nicaragua

Hammock from Nicaragua

This hammock is “resting” in our garage for the winter.  It had spent the summer in our backyard on a stand that I had to move about 37 times when I was mowing the grass.  (Our house does not have a “lawn”.  I don’t do lawns.  I am lucky to say that most of the yard is grass, thank you, very much.)  It did get used quite a bit by different members of the household, but truth be told, I probably used it more than it’s owner – my daughter.

I spent many an afternoon laying in the hammock and just thinking.  I don’t sleep well in it so I rest…and when I rest, I think.  And some of my thoughts were about the very strings that were holding me up off the ground and giving me the rest that I needed at the moment.

Most would not think of a hammock as something associated with the word “Go.”  Stranger still might be the connection between “go,” “hammock” and “baptism.”  But because some words leave a lasting sticky residue in your mouth, I have no trouble at all with the connection.

This hammock from Nicaragua returned with my now senior in high school daughter when she returned from a mission trip in December and January of 2012.  I worried a lot while she was gone.  I marked the passing of her sixteenth birthday without her while she was away.  I prayed a lot while she was gone.  She turned off her phone when she arrived in Managua because she wanted to totally immerse herself in her work and I didn’t here from her directly for over two weeks.  Like I said, I prayed a lot while she was gone.

She did come home and she brought this great “‘restful” gift with her.

But the fact of the matter is that whenever I see that hammock…whenever I am attempting to rest in its web of strings, I remember that my wife and I stood before a congregation, let our District Superintendent sprinkle water on her head and let God claim her as one of God’s own.  Even then I knew how dangerous an act that was but I thought I could control things better.

Alas, God said, “Go.”

And I am blessed because my daughter listened.  Grayer…but blessed.

Sunrise…Sunset

Sunrise over Princeton, WV

Sunrise over Princeton, WV

He sat at the kitchen table sipping on the hot Chock-Full-Of-Nuts™ coffee that had just been brewed through the Kuerig™ and read the headlines from the morning paper as he did most mornings.  This pastor noted the arrest of someone for a Meth Lab and a story or two about local businesses.  Then for no real reason he looked up and out the window across the kitchen.

Drinking from his Duke Divinity mug, one purchased from the Baptist Student Union while he was still in seminary, this Methodist pastor took the three short steps over to window and looked out upon the mountains that made up the horizon.  Purple and orange light burst over the edges of the mountains with a dim shade of blue highest in the sky.  He blew across the surface of the steaming cup of coffee and smiled.  “I can’t count the number of beautiful sunrises I have seen from this place,” he said to himself or the coffee because no one else was around.

He continued to stand at the window and watch the changing sunrise as he thought back over the last year or so in his life and ministry.  He remembered the first beautiful sunrise that he witnessed there in the Southern mountains of West Virginia, the excitement he had in seeing it and rushing to take a photograph of it for his family to see.

His mind wandered back to a photo of a sunset that his oldest at-home daughter had taken while she had ridden on top of a bus, a quarter of the world away in Nicaragua several months before.  He remembered the tears she shed as she shared about the photo and the people and the whole experience of being that far way and yet feeling right at home.  She came home filled with tears that flooded our home for several days and when they did stop she had a peace about her that father, the pastor, had not seen in a long time – at least not in himself.  Sometime during those days, he remembered her saying, “Daddy, it doesn’t matter where we are but I would like to see your smile again.”

Watching as the blue of the daylight took over more and more of the orange and purple of the sunrise, the pastor’s mind wandered back to a tennis court and his youngest daughter.  It was a hot day in June and quite possibly the last time they would hit any balls on this court.  They had a great time laughing and chasing each other’s badly hit shots and celebrating the good points that she made.  He even remembered one very lucky shot of his own that left his daughter’s jaw dropping as she tried to figure out how her “old Dad” had hit the ball so soundly. The look on her face brought a laugh to him then and now.

Yet thinking back, he recalled that he had chosen the side of the court facing the sun.  He wanted to see it set – again.  He looked forward to it setting each and every day because it meant the day was over and there would be no more trouble. It may have been a hot summer day, but the sunset signaled something different, something almost wintry.  Night meant rest and he looked for rest like he would look for a lost child – desperately and deliberately.

The coffee cup was on the counter now and he was leaning into the sink, the sunrise almost over and the day well on its way to beginning but he thought back to all those sunsets he watched for the last year or so of serving before he moved.  He knew his fascination with them was more than just the beauty that they might bring.  He knew he watched because he was willing something to end – if not the turmoil he had inside, then at least the day.  So he watched the sunset time and time again.

He rinsed out his cup and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher before he walked back over to the table to straighten the paper.  He took one last look out the window and smiled thinking about the sunrise he had just witnessed.  Was it number 18? 19? 20?  He just wasn’t sure.  He just knew it was strange for a January morning.  He was surprised by them in the summer, used to them by Fall, but now they held a special place for him as he witnessed them in the midst of Winter.  He thought of the coffee, the smile, the rush to get to the window to see as much of the sunrise as possible.  The pastor smiled the smile his daughter had been missing.  He laughed the laugh that he himself had thought lost in a sunset somewhere.  The day had begun and the journey towards home continued.